This week I left Tor.com (though probably only temporarily!) for a short story by Korean author Ha Seong-nan. She has a new short story collection out, and I’ve heard good things, so I wanted to try out a short story of hers to get a sense of her style, then maybe pick up the collection. I ended up reading “Bluebeard’s First Wife,” which you can read for free here…
I enjoyed this story well enough. It’s a smooth read for having been translated, and I especially enjoyed the imagery and the sense of displacement woven throughout the story. I did feel the plot progressed in a kind of dizzying matter; the MC is suddenly engaged to this guy, and you don’t have a sense of how it all happened. They met on a plane, and then… marriage? Their relationship has the weight of a cloud, but it works for the plot and feel of the story.
Even so, I guess I was left wanting a little bit more. Everything felt a bit too flat and matter-of-fact. The repeated poem also didn’t seem to have much relevance to me… or maybe I’m not picking up the symbolism for some reason.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
With stories like these, I’m sometimes left feeling a little bit stupid. Why is this not working for me? What does the author mean by this? At the same time, I feel that if I’m not gleaning at least some of the deeper symbolism on a first read-through, perhaps the story isn’t being told successfully. In any case, I would definitely read more short fiction by this author, as I am intrigued by some of the reviews I’ve seen of her other work, but this story was just so-so for me.